We’d picked a middle of the day flight to Arusha, the idea being then we didn’t need to rush and check out time would coincidence with our needing to depart to the airport.
A few days earlier we had a schedule change email from Air Tanzania saying we’d now depart 90 mins later. So we planned how to use the unexpected time, then the night before we got another schedule change email; the flight was back to the original time. That also told us online check in was now open which gave us confidence that was going to be the final departure time. Online check in was very easy, but it would only let us ‘auto select’ seats and then gave us seats on different rows, one behind the other. There was no way to change it but with the flight only being 1 hr we weren’t bothered.
After breakfast we walked to the waterfront for coffee, got some lunch from the bakery, topped up with cash while we were in a safe place, before packing and checking out. The first taxi to tout us offered us a more than fair rate to the airport. Traffic was surprisingly quiet so we arrived with heaps of time to spare.
When we boarded the flight it turned out to only be half full. Emma had a window seat and was sat next to someone and Marie had no neighbour nor anyone behind. Masks are mandatory on the flight and they remind you at check in. On Zanzibar no one wore them, and the flight was no different, we were among the few that had followed instructions, not even the crew wore them.
Once we crossed the ocean and were back over mainland Africa looking down at the landscape – the dirt roads, the villages, the hills, the criss cross across the landscape of animal ‘roads’. The feeling of not being ready to hit the road yet changed to excitement. Then we got our first view of Kilimanjaro – few things evoke Africa like the name ‘Kilimanjaro.’ Now we were super excited.
As we came in to land we were both looking at the roads. Tar sealed, no visible pot holes and there wasn’t much traffic – it made us feel confident that this first part, while we are fully on the tourist trail was going to be easy. As we got a taxi into the city to the place we were staying we became less confident about how we were going to get out of the chaos of the city to get onto those nice roads. Particularly in a vehicle that we’d just got in, and having not driven a manual since we were last in Africa in 2019. But we could worry about that later.
A small airport unlike tropical Zanzibar it felt like Africa. Disembarkation was a walk across the tarmac to a guy that vaguely pointed a thermometer gun at your head. No one failed. Checked bags arrived on a trailer and were laid out on a table for collection. Realising how quiet the airport was and that finding transport wouldn’t be easy we negotiated with a guy holding an airport taxi sign while we waited.
Arusha is the gateway city to Mt Kilimanjaro and Northern Tanzania’s national parks. It’s literally just a staging post, there are no sights to see in the city. Which suited us as our plans for our day and half there were practical – when camping on trips we always have a list of things to buy that we can’t carry.
Key things on the list were: a bucket (wash yourself, wash your clothes, wash your dishes, carry things) as a bonus we got one with a lid, some sacks to put our rucksacks in (keep the dust off them that gets into the back), plastic lunch boxes, a flask, a dustpan brush (to sweep out the vehicle and our shoes before putting them in the tent) and the all important fly spray (all countries we’re going to are high malaria risk, so the nightly routine will be same as when camping in NZ and killing sandflies – spray in the tent, wait 10 mins jump in).
After checking in to where we were staying we went and found coffee, it was a really nice place that we ended up going back to a few times. Then got a bajaj to an outdoor shop before it closed to get a cover for Marie’s daysack. The existing one has seen too many trips and has started disintegrating on the inside. They had 1 and it fit perfectly. Green and heavy duty it is just the job for the bush but a new one will have to be purchased for western cities. We also got a flask. The shop was in a precinct with a big supermarket and we couldn’t resist. We got some more things we needed and with it not being safe to walk the streets after dark (and us being too knackered to be bothered with the hassle of going out again anyway) we got a picnic dinner while we were at it. We got a bajaj back to our digs and after dinner struggled to keep our eyes open again.
Despite staying near the main streets of the city centre it was lovely and quiet. As it is cheap it was basic but we had good space in our room for organising our stuff and it was very safe. We got the use of 1 towel included in the price.
After breakfast the next morning we tried a different coffee shop. It was nice but the first was more relaxed so it became our go to. Then we set off for the central market. A typical rabbit warren of a market we got most of what we were looking for. Emma has learnt some basic Swahili which fast turns us into a curiosity even with the most persistent sellers. Unfortunately her numbers are still a work-in-progress so she does great until it come time to negotiate the price. Unlike Zanzibar, sellers and drivers here are chancers and we’ve had some stupid numbers thrown out at us, including a bajaj driver the night before that asked for 4 times the price of a journey we’d just done the other way. They drop fast though when you start to walk away.
After walking back to our digs to drop off our purchases we went out and got another coffee and lunch. The clouds had cleared into a lovely day so we decided to walk to the supermarket to get some dinner (we hadn’t gone past any other shop that looked a likely candidate for food). Sick of walking afterwards we got a bajaj back to the end of the street before exploring another of the main roads and heading back to our digs.
We ventured out an hour before dark for one last coffee and then it was an evening of organising our bags, charging everything and studying the map to work out where we were going to head to once we got the vehicle the next day. Then struggling to keep our eyes open again after dinner, getting up early for safari drives doesn’t look like it is going to be an issue!